Aaron Bedard, one of the plaintiffs in the Equitas Society’s class-action lawsuit, participated in the society’s Inaugural Walk For Veterans in Burnaby in October. (File photo)

Veterans take pension appeal to Canada’s top court

White Rock-based Equitas Society says soldiers injured in Afghanistan ‘deserve better’

Canadian armed forces veterans who have been suing the federal government to have their full disability pensions reinstated are turning to the Supreme Court of Canada for a ruling to overturn a recent decision by the BC Court of Appeal.

That decision, handed down Dec. 4, ruled against continuing their class-action lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court, on the grounds that, in spite of verbal support for veterans in the House of Commons, and promises by the Liberal government to reinstate lifelong pensions removed by the previous Conservative government, such statements do not have the force of law.

The original court action was launched by White Rock-based Equitas Society in 2012.

Wednesday (Jan. 31), lawyers for the group – veterans injured while serving in Afghanistan – made an application to the Supreme Court in Ottawa for a leave to appeal, asserting that the BC Court of Appeal erred in finding that there is no legal obligation or social covenant to “those who have served Canada honourably.”

In a press release from the Equitas Society, which advocates for the veterans and filed the lawsuit on their behalf, president Marc Burchell said “our armed forces members deserve better than this.”

“The BC Appeals Court ruling says there is nothing embedded in the law to protect them,” he said.

“This case is about making sure the Government of Canada supports our fighting men and women as they must. The government must either reinstate the old Pension Act, or must make sure compensation for injuries under the New Veterans Charter is as good as – or better – than what they received before.”

In a memorandum of argument on behalf of the plaintiffs, Vancouver lawyer Don Sorochan stated that men and women who voluntarily sign up for Canada’s military do so at “great personal risk and sacrifice.”

“In exchange for that sacrifice there is an obligation on the Government and people of Canada to ensure those who are injured or fall receive adequate recognition and compensation for their injuries or losses,” Sorochan wrote.

The application seeks permission from the Supreme Court of Canada to have the matter argued on a full appeal to the court so that a judgment of the Supreme Court could assist “courts tasked with examining the nature and extent of obligations owing to those injured in service to Canada.”

Canadian soldiers received disability pensions from 1919, until the New Veterans Charter took effect in 2006, under the Harper government.

The charter replaced the pensions with lump-sum payments which, Equitas argues, has represented a sharp reduction in benefits for the majority of veterans.

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